Friday, October 3, 2008

Branson’s Virgin spaceships to gather climate data

Posted by AndyMcCue

OK, while the nerdy sci-fi fan in Greenbang loves the idea of a Jetson’s style future where we all get round by jetpack or hop into our personal space vehicles for a short inter-galactic holiday, it seems completely environmentally irresponsible to be encouraging more space travel by developing the concept of space tourism in these times of climate change.

The aviation industry is already one of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters and the idea of spending billions on commercial spaceships appears just bonkers.

One of the pioneers of commercial space travel is Richard Branson with his Virgin Galactic vehicles that will take passengers on sub-orbital flights 68 miles above the earth - just outside earth’s ‘boundary’ with space. Of course Virgin claims that, because of a range of innovations, Virgin Galactic will be operating an “environmentally-benign” space launch system.

But something genuinely good for the environment may now come out of all this following a deal with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) to use Virgin Galactic vehicles to fly science instruments onboard the manned space vehicles to provide data on atmospheric composition that will help increase understanding of climate change science.

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C Lautenbacher Jr, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, said:

“We need data and observations to understand how our climate changes. This affords us a new and unique opportunity to gather samples and measurements at much higher altitudes that we can usually achieve.”

If you are interested in booking a flight on Virgin Galactic, btw, it’ll set you back $200,000, and a minimum deposit of $20,000.

Original here

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